IT’S the latest culinary symbol of the Entente Cordiale.
Scotland’s national dish has been given a distinctive Gallic twist for Burns Night after a French chef reinvented the humble haggis in controversial style.
Instead of the traditional blend of offal and herbs, a city restaurant has revamped the savoury puddling with a quintessentially French ingredient – horsemeat.
Fred Berkmiller, owner of L’escargot Blanc, insists the neigh-sayers will be won over by his equine-inspired recipe because of the meat’s light, tender taste and lean, fat-free texture. The dish – served with the traditional neeps and tatties, as well as a slice of liver and heart – will set guests back £11.90 and contains a horse’s heart, liver and kidney, as well as oatmeal and veal to hold the mixture together.
In 2010, another restaurant in Mr Berkmiller’s stable – L’escargot Bleu on Broughton Street – became the first in Scotland to put horse steak on the menu. He received almost 400 threats and complaints over his decision.
Mr Berkmiller said: “Horse is very popular here – people are willing to try it. I think people coming to a French restaurant do expect to try some exotic things.
“It looks a bit like venison, but its got a very light flavour. It’s very tender and very lean – there’s virtually no fat.”
He insists the controversial meat is ethically sourced and remains in high demand among diners at his restaurant.
He said: “We buy the horse from a dealer in Paris who brings it from a few different farms. The meat is Persian horse or Comtois horse. It helps the breeders because it gives them an out for the horses. There’s hardly any use for those big horses – people don’t buy them any more for leisure, and they’re not used for work any longer.
“And for us it gives 100 per cent peace of mind as we know where the horses are coming from and we know they have been reared for the meat. They are quite young – around two years old – when they go to the abattoir.
“But we are talking about small farms, so we only get horses when they kill them – and that’s the only horse I’m going to buy, as our policy is to give our customers 100 per cent trustability. That’s very important, especially nowadays. We are not forcing anyone to eat anything – it’s on the menu and they can have it or not.”
Emma Conroy, owner of Edinburgh Nutrition, hailed the horsemeat haggis as a “clever vehicle” for introducing the healthy meat into Scots’ diets. She said: “It’s a positive ingredient. The nutritional profile of any meat is heavily influenced by what the animal has eaten, and if a horse has largely grazed on grass then it should have an excellent nutritional profile.”
Some 70,000 horses are eaten in France each year.